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Ryan Bigelow
12-20-2004, 06:54 PM
This guy has seventh dan from the Aikikai Honbu dojo where he trained for a period of less than 10 years. I'm not so sure that "legitimate" ranks are all they are cracked up to be.

Charles Hill
I agree with this post. Look at the Honbu homepage, aikido academy? I practice for for two days a week for 10 months and Im a shodan? A year and a half for nidan? Of course you could practice for hours and hours everyday at hombu, but that extra practice isnt listed as a requirement. I hope that Im terribly mistaken about the whole thing, but it sounds like belts for sale to me.

Kent Enfield
12-20-2004, 07:06 PM
Look at the Honbu homepage, aikido academy? I practice for for two days a week for 10 months and Im a shodan? A year and a half for nidan?Why is that a problem, if "shodan" = "beginner," and nidan is just the next rank after that?

akiy
12-20-2004, 07:37 PM
Thread split from original thread (http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/showthread.php?t=7172).

For those wishing for more information on the Aikido Academy at Aikikai Hombu dojo, you can find it here:

http://www.aikikai.or.jp/Eng/hombu/Academy.htm

-- Jun

GLWeeks
12-20-2004, 08:46 PM
Why is that a problem, if "shodan" = "beginner," and nidan is just the next rank after that?


Riiiiiiiiiiiiiight....

Charles Hill
12-20-2004, 09:03 PM
I may get roasted for this but....,

In my experience Japanese students are more willing to shut up and submit to the training process at the beginning levels. In general, they advance from the beginner level to the intermediate level, what John Stevens Sensei has called "knowing your right foot from your left" faster than your average westerner. If we think "shu ha ri" it is at the "ha" level where most Japanese get stuck.

Charles Hill

PeterR
12-20-2004, 10:25 PM
Just to keep Charles company in the pot I concur. Many Westerners also try to run through the three levels and talk Ri when they would best be served at Shu.

DCP
12-20-2004, 10:50 PM
What's the big deal? I've heard from a highly-respected sensei that has practiced in Japan, that Shodan is a "throw away" rank in Japan without a great deal of meaning. Doesn't Shodan translate to "first level?"

I've heard from many people that in Japan, shodan can be earned in 1-2 years. Most credible associations in the U.S. grant shodan in 6-10 years of consistant training.

I would love to do the program. I doubt it's a "gimmee rank" program. It's a great chance to practice consistantly with a Hombu instructor. That's a bad thing?

PeterR
12-20-2004, 11:16 PM
What's the big deal? I've heard from a highly-respected sensei that has practiced in Japan, that Shodan is a "throw away" rank in Japan without a great deal of meaning. Doesn't Shodan translate to "first level?"
Depends on the organization. But 6-10 years is just silly for Shodan.

maikerus
12-20-2004, 11:29 PM
Depends on the organization. But 6-10 years is just silly for Shodan.

It took me 9 years (albeit with 2 dojo changes) in Canada. And that was practicing 3-6 times per week depending on the year.

And I have no qualms with the time taken. Every moment was important. Of course, then I had to learn it all over again when I came to Japan <sigh>

I do feel that shodan can be achieved faster in Japan (at least in Yoshinkan) and I think the reason for that is that there seem to be different "Aikido tracks" where the person is either a hobbiest (ippon), a serious student (kenshusei) or in the instructor track (uchideshi/senshusei).

The first one is pretty much a "throw away black belts" but the other two are more serious, but the amount of training is also much different for each track.

I would say that the Aikido I practiced in Canada basically only had a single track and that was somewhere between the kenshu and instructor-like track. Maybe not as serious as uchideshi, but the goals were similar and therefor the time taken was longer than here (although actual mat time might be similar).

My few yen,

--Michael

PeterR
12-20-2004, 11:40 PM
Hi Michael;

It took my four years but the first year was a loss. I moved to Honbu and got tossed right to the bottom.

We don't have formal tracks like you described but their are sort of informal ones. The dojo works both as a Honbu dojo and a neighborhood dojo. It contains everything from top-drawer athletes to 40 year old housewives deciding to do something completely different.

In the grand scheme of things the actual length of time is not important but 9 years???? Exactly how clumsy were you. :D

maikerus
12-20-2004, 11:51 PM
In the grand scheme of things the actual length of time is not important but 9 years???? Exactly how clumsy were you. :D
Ha ha :D

Get on that shinkansen and come on up and find out <rubbing hands together fiendishly> :D

The dojo changes were a big deal. Politics is alive and kicking in Ontario, Canada <wry grin>

Talk to you later,

--Michael

PeterR
12-20-2004, 11:54 PM
The dojo changes were a big deal. Politics is alive and kicking in Ontario, Canada <wry grin>

Ah they are infamous.

batemanb
12-21-2004, 03:49 AM
Depends on the organization. But 6-10 years is just silly for Shodan.


It took me 11 years including a 2 year "sabatical" in Japan where I also got tossed to the bottom of the pile and started again :).

But who cares how long it takes, my Aikido is what's important, not the rank, and my ability is reflective of what I invest.

regards

Bryan

PeterR
12-21-2004, 03:54 AM
It took me 11 years including a 2 year "sabatical" in Japan where I also got tossed to the bottom of the pile and started again.
OK OK A reasonably healthy person, taking 6-10 years in a single dojo, with regular training of at least twice a week, is silly.

kaishaku
12-21-2004, 04:12 AM
OK OK A reasonably healthy person, taking 6-10 years in a single dojo, with regular training of at least twice a week, is silly.

I'm almost there and I'm nowhere near shodan :yuck:

PeterR
12-21-2004, 04:18 AM
But you did take a break didn't you?

disabledaccount
12-21-2004, 04:26 AM
OK OK A reasonably healthy person, taking 6-10 years in a single dojo, with regular training of at least twice a week, is silly.

Twice a week?!? Tell me that's a typo. That's like eight hours a month. It takes a minimum of six years to achieve Shodan with the USAF Western Region, and that's with closer to eight hours a WEEK of training. I guess we like our Shodan to be good. ;)

PeterR
12-21-2004, 04:37 AM
I think about 400 practice days is about right. Any more than that Shodan is really not what it's name implies - beginning level.

I suppose you could give yourself kudos about how difficult your particular Shodan is but after that length of time it is essentially meaningless.

I also said at least twice a week and I assume that's a reasonably long class.

philipsmith
12-21-2004, 05:18 AM
Aikikai Hombu system allows you to obtain Shodan after about 350 days of practise; providing you acheive all kyu grades on time. So two classes per week its 2-3 years (allowing for holiday breaks).

In saying that took me 7 but that was partly due to age restrictions (I was Shodan at 17)

David Humm
12-21-2004, 10:06 AM
... And not withstanding the individual's ability to learn and the quality of the instruction given at dojo level.

I agree with Bryan, the grade is a recognition of a given standard (and that's an entirely different debate) but the grade isn't important, time and experience on the mat is.

Qatana
12-21-2004, 10:08 AM
I don't uinderstand Ryan's post. In his intro he says he has been training about a year in Japan and is about to take his first kyu.
I inferred this to mean, this is how long he has been training, but maybe he's been training for seven years in the states and only a year in Japan.
But first kyu in a year is just a little short of shodan in a year, in the "long run", isn't it?

When a dojo has regularly scheduled gradings and/or a set syllabus, its possible to advance much faster than a dojo that operates "holistically" in the sense that testing is scheduled when enough students are ready to test.
If I test once a year I will make shodan in six years. That will be four years from now.

Dazzler
12-21-2004, 10:23 AM
Twice a week?!? Tell me that's a typo. That's like eight hours a month. It takes a minimum of six years to achieve Shodan with the USAF Western Region, and that's with closer to eight hours a WEEK of training. I guess we like our Shodan to be good. ;)

And are those 8 hours a month in an open class...where grades range from 1st nighters to x dans?...

or in kyu level specific classes where everyone is on a par?.

In the first scenario progress is bound to be hampered by continually having to ensure the newbies can practice safetly.

This whole issue is complicated by how a shodan is measured. What defines a shodan? Ability to win a fight? Ability to perform x techniques? ability to demonstrate self defence via techniques? ability to show an appreciation of base and a competence to start practicing it?

My feeling is that within all organisations they like their shodans to be good - Its just that what one group emphasises is good may disagree with what another group endorses.

At the end of the day its reallly really important but just as milestone.

Once you've earned it then its all about practicing

D

Fred Little
12-21-2004, 10:30 AM
OK OK A reasonably healthy person, taking 6-10 years in a single dojo, with regular training of at least twice a week, is silly.

Peter:

By that standard, it looks like most of North America is a pretty silly place, at least those areas which have USAF or ASU dojo.

But I would echo the observation that the SHU aspect is something that seems to be much more carefully observed by beginners in Japan than here in the US, which is one factor that goes into the increased time requirements.

I've also observed that US dojo tend to maintain fairly tight correlations between seniority and dan ranking, which sometimes makes for a bit of a glass ceiling for individuals here who are diligent about SHU and thus make quick technical progress. My view is that this is a misconstrual of the sempai/kohai construct, but it is also a social reality in many US dojo.

I also think that the comparatively longer time to shodan in the US is related to the greater tendency among US students to misconstrue the coveted black belt as something more than a "first step" and the caution of Japanese Shihan and their senior students about fostering a situation in which underqualified individuals might run out and start their own dojo.

Lastly, it also appears to me that even where there's no question of the new shodan running out and immediately opening up a dojo, more than a few instructors ask themselves whether or not a given individual is likely to continue training after shodan. If the answer is not clear, getting instructor approval for a test date may be difficult in many dojo.

I have mixed feelings about all of this, but for the most part, it seems to me that without these tendencies and patterns, there would be many, many more complaints about the quality of instruction and grading standards in the US than there are at present, although I've also seen some cases in which first-rate practitioners have walked away from the art entirely because of overly-tight linkages between dan gradings and seniority.

My two cents, for what it's worth.

Fred Little

jebel
12-21-2004, 10:53 AM
There is no inherent formula of time spent in Aikido to calculate when a student will or should achieve Shodan or any other rank. Each individual, regardless of national origin, will take as long as he/she takes to reach any given level. There is nothing good or bad about this - it just is.

kironin
12-21-2004, 11:02 AM
I think about 400 practice days is about right. Any more than that Shodan is really not what it's name implies - beginning level.

I suppose you could give yourself kudos about how difficult your particular Shodan is but after that length of time it is essentially meaningless.


meaningless,
Really ?

I took 6.25 years to shodan and given my frequency of practice up to then, something approaching 2000 practice days. I hardly felt it was essentially meaningless. Minimum time to shodan for my organization was 5 years determined by my shihan. He had a two year minimum as ikkyu which is why I didn't test earlier.

Someone doing a shodan in 10 months by training twice a week is a pretty meaningless black belt in my book. I would hardly call someone in my dojo training twice a week for less than a year a "serious beginner who has mastered the basics". Outside of Japan that practice would certainly qualify as a belt factory. However it's not exactly news that fastest way to get promoted in aikido organizations is to go to Japan.

should there be such a dramatic bias against those not being taught in Japan ?
well doesn't have to be, for my iaido organization that is based in Japan, a shodan is typically 2-3 years regardless of whether you train at a school in Japan or outside of Japan. However, all yudansha test outside of Japan are videotaped and sent to Japan for review and approval of advancement even though a shihan is doing the testing.

Chris Li
12-21-2004, 12:15 PM
Aikikai Hombu system allows you to obtain Shodan after about 350 days of practise; providing you acheive all kyu grades on time. So two classes per week its 2-3 years (allowing for holiday breaks).


Actually, at Aikikai hombu you can get to nidan in two years without being excessive in your training - seen it done more than once.

Best,

Chris

aikidoc
12-21-2004, 12:50 PM
So what do they call the top and bottom med school graduates? Doctor. What do they call the 2 year and 10 year shodan. Shodan. I realize different people train and learn at different speeds and different organizations require different things. If the test sets the standard then it is meaningless how long it takes-it's still shodan. However, I think higher levels tend to be taken more seriously. I do think 6 plus years for a basic level of skill such as shodan is way too long if the person is training 2-3 times a week consistently.

Charles Hill
12-21-2004, 01:09 PM
I bristle at the suggestion that the fastest way to get rank is to go to Japan. I received nidan after about 5 - 6 years. I trained 5 times a week and then a period of just over a year fulltime. When I visited the States after that, I was often told that deal about going to Japan, usually by nidans that had been training about twenty years.

Also, at Honbu, Ichihashi Shihan would often fail students at dan level. I knew a Spanish guy who tested for sandan four times. These people would often fail by not showing a solid command of basics and for being too flashy. From what I saw, they were always non-Japanese.

Just an opinion, but the Shihan in the States preside over large organizations. It is hard for them to take responsibility for quality control. Making shodan difficult to get may be a response to that.

My iaido group, Muso Shinden Ryu, allows for shodan in a year, if you join at the right time. You can get a dan rank each year up to sandan, if I remember correctly. This is though the ZNKR and refers to the seitei iai kata.

Charles

Kent Enfield
12-21-2004, 01:38 PM
Someone doing a shodan in 10 months by training twice a week is a pretty meaningless black belt in my book.And how meaningful should the first rank, called "beginning level," be?

Kent Enfield
12-21-2004, 01:42 PM
My iaido group, Muso Shinden Ryu, allows for shodan in a year, if you join at the right time. You can get a dan rank each year up to sandan, if I remember correctly. This is though the ZNKR and refers to the seitei iai kata.ZNKR requires you to wait your rank in years before moving up a dan: nidan one year after shodan, sandan two years after nidan, yondan three years after sandan, etc. Except hachidan is ten years after nanadan. These arn't taking into account the reduced requirements for the combination of advanced age and high skill, which I'm not sure any organization outside of Japan uses.

batemanb
12-21-2004, 01:53 PM
Point of note, this is the text from the Hombu web site

Graduates of each course will be given CERTIFICATES, and upon successful execution of grading examinations, Aikido kyu or dan ranks will be conferred. Promotions are possible as follows: Beginners Course - up to 3rd kyu; Intermediate Course - SHO DAN; Advanced Course - up to 2nd DAN.

The words are "Promotions are possible as follows", that doesn`t mean that the grades are guaranteed.

When I went to Japan, I was a 1st kyu with 9 years of training behind me. As I said earlier, I got tossed to the bottom and started again. In the 2 years that I was there, I graded twice and left Japan 1st Kyu. I`m now a Shodan having graded back here at my old dojo.

Despite training at Hombu occasionally, I didn`t know about the Aikikai Academy, but if I had known about it, I think I would have gone for it. Wouldn`t have made my Aikido any different to what it is now as I still trained those 2 years in an Aikikai dojo with an excellent Sensei, the only difference may have been my grade and who authorised it.

For me it`s still about my Aikido, my training and my teaching. It really doesn`t make an difference to me, nor does it concern me whether you get Shodan in 2 years or 10. I`m happy doing what I`m doing and am enjoying practice and teaching more than ever.


regards

Bryan

Don
12-21-2004, 02:18 PM
This is a really interesting thread. I have read the Aikikai Hombu website before and was as surprised as many in this thread were. I think someone probably indicated the real reason for the discrepencies between Hombu "Aikido Academy" promotions and "the rest of the world".

I think that the length of time indicated by most in "the rest of the world", myslef included at 7 years, is a percieved difference in what Shodan means. Shodan in much of the rest of the world, at least the U.S., is that you are a pretty good master of the art. That is strikingly different than the traditional Japanese definition of Shodan. I think that part of the length of time issue has to do with, as someone has said, the desire to not proliferate a bunch of more or less incompetent instructors and dilute the art, and the recognition that Shodan in many countries other than Japan is different than in Japan. We have had several Japanese train at our dojo who had been training awhile and were less than pleased with how they happened to compare with U.S. students who were the same rank, but had been training much longer.

But in the end, its what you want in the long run. If you want good aikido, it won't ultimately matter how long or what rank you are. If you want to get into the organization and the politics, then different things matter. Me, I just want to train. IMHO

tedehara
12-21-2004, 02:21 PM
This is for anyone knowledgeable about dan ranks in Japanese universities and colleges. I heard you could get a shodan while attending school. That means a Japanese student could start as a white belt and by the time they graduate, they would have a shodan. That should be about 2 years part-time training.

Given what was discussed, you could also get a nidan rank within your undergraduate years. Is this really possible? Is it common?

rob_liberti
12-21-2004, 03:40 PM
What I have seen in the section of Japan I regularly visit is that the people training in the main dojo of the shihan do tend to advance in rank much more quickly than the people training in satellite dojos. Also, many people quickly get shodan and nidan, but few go beyond that unless they are very talented. (I understand that this in not everywhere in Japan.)

-Rob

Chris Li
12-21-2004, 03:49 PM
This is for anyone knowledgeable about dan ranks in Japanese universities and colleges. I heard you could get a shodan while attending school. That means a Japanese student could start as a white belt and by the time they graduate, they would have a shodan. That should be about 2 years part-time training.

Given what was discussed, you could also get a nidan rank within your undergraduate years. Is this really possible? Is it common?

The usual course is to graduate with a ni-dan after four years in a university club.

Best,

Chris

kironin
12-21-2004, 05:35 PM
My iaido group, Muso Shinden Ryu, allows for shodan in a year, if you join at the right time. You can get a dan rank each year up to sandan, if I remember correctly. This is through the ZNKR and refers to the seitei iai kata.
Charles

interesting, you perform the seitei iai for dan rank advancement ?
Muso Shinden Ryu is what I do also but we perform the Omori Ryu kata set for initial dan rank advancement. We are expected to know the seitei iai but it's not considered part of the core curriculum of shoden, chuden, and okuden kata.


as for going to Japan, based on what you said why do you bristle if it's true ? I don't hold it against you. ;) I have seen a number of examples of it. It is what it is. and I am not just talking about the aikikai only.

kironin
12-21-2004, 05:44 PM
And how meaningful should the first rank, called "beginning level," be?

Well it is usually the first rank in iaido, so a literal translation might be enough. Most aikido schools have 5 to 7 ranks below shodan that students have to train for and pass. Perhaps a literal translation isn't quite appropriate in that situation.

Charles Hill
12-21-2004, 06:32 PM
Hi Craig,

I was told that MSR doesn't have it's own dan ranks, everything is through the ZNKR. The test is based on seitei, and I believe that one may substitute a koryu kata for one seitei. I have only been practicing for about a half year, so I'm not sure, but definately the test is seitei.

My bristling experiences have been to get a wink and a grin, "oh yeah, you're ### dan." Then I end up throwing a bit too hard and things degenerate. Of course my immaturity is a big part of it. :)

As for the posts about shodan equalling beginner, only Japanese involved in the martial arts are aware of it. To the average Japanese, black belt means the person is highly skilled.

Charles

PeterR
12-21-2004, 06:49 PM
I tend to ask how long someones been practicing.

I've also noticed that by Sandan things start to even out across styles but again rank only has meaning within an organization and in the long run not that much even there.

Sorry Craig - of course you should have a feeling of personal accomplishment but I meant that by that point you should be well past Shodan (beginning level) stage.

I also bristle at the "well you know in Japan dan grades are easy" comments. All my grades are from here and we've been practicing about the same time and our ranks are the same - yes? University students have a program but ask yourself how many stay at Nidan for extended periods of time after that. Familiar with Judo and Shodokan Aikido and know several 15 year Aikikai people still at Nidan.

tedehara
12-24-2004, 03:17 PM
The usual course is to graduate with a ni-dan after four years in a university club.

Best,

ChrisThanks Chris,

That's food for thought.

Joe Bowen
12-28-2004, 09:02 PM
It has been my experience that in Japan you have two types of Aikido students: those that practice in order to eventually teach and those that don't. Those that just practice Aikido without any ambition to teach and make their living teaching Aikido are graded fairly quickly to Shodan and maybe even Nidan, but it take a while for them to progress from there. Those that want to teach and make their living teaching Aikido are held to a little higher standard. Additionally, you are not considered teacher material unless you've spent some time as Uchideshi to someone.
In my many brief trips to Japan, it became apparent to me that most Japanese don't consider you a serious student of Aikido unless you are a shodan. You would be hard pressed to find a shodan teaching any type of class in Japan, even to children. Contrast that with the US where you have nidan and even in some cases shodan running their own satellite dojos and you can get a pretty good idea that there is a considerable difference in the expectations of the rank.

joe

alparis
01-03-2005, 03:49 PM
I am no expert but the page does say that:
"Graduates of each course will be given CERTIFICATES, and upon successful execution of grading examinations, Aikido kyu or dan ranks will be conferred. Promotions are possible as follows: Beginners Course - up to 3rd kyu; Intermediate Course - SHO DAN; Advanced Course - up to 2nd DAN."

Specifically the statements "upon successful execution" and "up to ...".

AP

Avery Jenkins
01-04-2005, 09:38 AM
It took me 11 years including a 2 year "sabatical" in Japan where I also got tossed to the bottom of the pile and started again :).

Hah. I got all you wimps beat. I'm on year 15--I passed my fifth kyu in 1990--with a 3-year time out to have a kid and start a practice, and I'm taking my first kyu test in a few weeks.

It will likely be several more years to shodan, and that's only if I pass the upcoming test.

I figure I'm going to be an insanely good shodan or I'm just plain crappy at aikido. It's a toss-up.

Avery